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August 11, 2013

Diesel VW Beetle is fun for many miles

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You can’t buy diesel fuel at every gas station. But it is common enough that I never faced any problems refueling any of the three diesel-powered cars I’ve owned through the years.

What’s more, although diesel fuel currently costs about 22 cents per gallon more than regular gasoline in Massachusetts, the additional mileage you gain more than compensates for the extra cost for the fuel.

For example, if I had been driving a gas-powered Beetle last week, I might have averaged 26 mpg, calculating from government fuel-use estimates. Therefore 10 gallons of gas would have carried me 260 miles, at a cost of $37.25, using Massachusetts average fuel prices from mid week. At the 48 mpg I attained in the diesel-driven Beetle, 10 gallons moved me 480 miles, at a cost of $39.50 for fuel. That’s $2.50 more for the 10 gallons of diesel fuel, but an increase of about 84 percent in driving range.

Despite their outstanding economy, diesel-powered VWs still haven’t caught fire with Merrimack Valley car buyers, reports Charles Daher Jr., sales manager at Commonwealth Volkswagen. The VW dealership is part of family-owned Commonwealth Motors, which also sells the Chevrolet, Honda, Kia and Nissan brands at its campus in Lawrence.

“They have a strong following. There are people who love them and that’s pretty much all they want,” said Daher. “But diesels really haven’t taken off with the mainstream.”

For example, Daher estimates that only about 15 percent of Commonwealth customers who buy the VW Jetta – Volkswagen’s most popular model – choose the diesel-powered version. A lot of those are drivers who go with the Jetta SportWagon, the station-wagon version favored by people with high-hauling, active lifestyles who may also tow recreational trailers. By their nature diesel engines excel at moving heavy loads, performing more effectively and efficiently than gas motors.

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